Maintaining a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy

Whether it ever was the truth — or simply the stuff of urban legends — "eating for two" is no longer the prevailing wisdom for pregnant women today. The food focus these days is on eating thoughtfully and healthfully, so that the nutrient-rich foods that you consume also contribute to the normal growth and development of your baby-to-be. In other words: being pregnant is a call to action to reevaluate your diet, and not a license to eat with impunity.

What's my expected weight gain?

The recommended range of weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds - but you would do well to talk to your midwife, OB/GYN or family doctor before assigning yourself a magic number. Depending on your starting weight at the time of conception, your health care provider may have a different recommendation. For example, in general, the higher your BMI at your first-trimester check-up, the fewer the number of pounds you should gain during pregnancy.

What should I eat?

During pregnancy, your body needs additional nutrient-rich fuel to tackle the developmental and growth milestones of each trimester. Stick with foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals to ensure you are passing along healthy nutrients, and avoid foods that have empty calories, meaning that they bring few, if any, nutritional benefits to your body. Typical foods that pack empty calories include added sugars and fats in soda, desserts, fried foods, cheese, whole milk and fatty meats. Follow these suggestions to get the most out of your meals (or snacks) throughout the day:
  • Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need, including six to 11 servings of breads and grains; two to four servings of fruit; four or more servings of vegetables; four servings of dairy products; and three servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts). If you choose to eat products with added fat, consume them sparingly.
  • Choose foods high in fiber, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits and vegetables.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin supplement to make sure you consistently get enough of the recommended daily vitamins and minerals. Your doctor can recommend an over-the-counter brand or prescribe a prenatal vitamin for you.
  • Eat and drink at least four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day to help ensure that you are getting adequate calcium.
  • Eat at least three servings of iron-rich foods per day to ensure you are getting adequate iron.
  • Choose at least one good source of vitamin C every day, such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, honeydew, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes and mustard greens.
  • Choose at least one good source of folic acid every day, such as dark green leafy vegetables, veal and legumes (lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas). Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
  • Choose at least one source of vitamin A every other day. Sources of vitamin A include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, water squash, turnip greens, beet greens apricots, and cantaloupe. Vitamin A, while an integral part of a healthy diet, when consumed in excess during pregnancy (e.g., more than 10,000 IU per day), is associated with fetal malformations.

Find the right resources

Pregnancy is unique for each woman who experiences it. Find a health care provider that is a good match for you, and together, you can figure out the right weight, diet, amount of exercise and pace of life suitable for your particular pregnancy. General nutrition information for pregnant women is available at choosemyplate.gov.